All About Forest Bathing

forest
Image credits: Shutterstock

It’s no secret that communing with nature is good for us. There are many ways to make the most of the scenic outdoors – camping, hiking, biking, and jogging are just some examples. But did you know that forest bathing or nature bath is the best way of reaping nature’s wellness benefits in a simple and slow manner?

Forest-bathing comes from the Japanese concept of shinrin-yoku, a wellness practice where you mindfully immerse yourself in a natural environment to relax and recharge. Meaning “soaking in the forest atmosphere,” this practice came into vogue in the 1980s. Shinrin-yoku originated with the dual purpose of countering the burnout caused by the sudden dominance of technology and inspiring the Japanese populace to connect with the forests. Nearly a decade later, researchers began studying the psychological and physiological benefits of the practice.

Benefits of Forest Baths

Studies conducted in Korea and Japan illustrate the multi-fold benefits of nature baths. It has a therapeutic effort on mind and body alike, helping you disconnect from the chaos of daily life. Nature bathing can help improve focus and concentration while lowering stress and anxiety levels. It is a mood enhancer, with many people claiming their feelings of depression dissipated or reduced after a nature bathing session.

The physical health benefits of nature bathing include regulation of blood pressure, boosting the immune system, and balanced hormone production to ensure a good night’s sleep. Trees release different compounds into the air all through the day. Some of these can help reduce inflammation in the body and help increase the natural killer cells in your body to fight bacterial or viral infections, even cancer.

How to Go About It

Enjoying nature bathing sessions does not require much effort or any special equipment. You only need the right place to engage in this peaceful practice. Decide on a scenic spot like a nature reserve and choose a time. Leave your gadgets and tech paraphernalia such as laptop, phone, and camera, at home. Free your mind of all worries and set aside thoughts of your responsibilities for a short while. There are no goals to meet or set distances to travel during your nature bathing session. So, start walking at a slow pace and let your feet guide you along.

The key to a fruitful session of nature bathing is letting your senses take over. Listen, feel, and see your natural environment as you roam the verdant surroundings. Feel free to lie on the ground and dip your toes in the streams you encounter. Breathe in the fresh air and smell the woody fragrance as you connect with nature. You could also try a couple of simple but powerful exercises to make the most of your outing.

Place your hand on a tree to feel its texture and breathe in its specific smell. Close your eyes while you inhale and exhale slowly for a few minutes. Another exercise involves collecting a rock or two as you walk. Move your fingers along its surface and let your imagination run wild with the possibilities of how it may have formed or how long ago.

Today, forest bathing is known as a structured practice, and it is easy to find certified forest therapy instructors across the globe. While the Adirondack Mountains in New York and the lush vegetation in the Hawaiian Islands are a nature bather’s dream come true, it does not have to be practiced only in the forest of the wilderness. You only need a spot with plenty of trees and greenery. City dwellers can simply make their way to the nearest green space or park, and a secluded beach works just as well. There is no particular level of fitness required for this calming activity, and this makes it ideal for people of all ages.